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114                                  VERDICT OK INDIA
that Western standards are inadmissible in assessing such work, in
which ease, of course, any attempt at comparative aesthetic
criticism is futile. However, if we do admit them, Chugtai's work,
in spite of his considerable technical equipment, seemed to me to
tell the same old story, the tragic story that India tells in a
thousand voices: the artist had his back to the sunlight and was
staring into the darkness of the past. He was conjuring up visions
of ancient legends, desperately trying to recapture on his canvas
a gleam or two of the glory that had so long faded- But the
visions were as the shadows of waxworks, and the glory persistently
evaded him.
In his disciples, who are numerous, these tendencies are woe-
fully exaggerated. Chugtai owes much to Beardsley, and his
copyists till their drawings with Beardsley's twice-removed; he
owes even more to sixteenth-century Chinese art, and again, his
copyists make their canvases sprout with bamboos. But whereas
the Chinese made their bamboos sing in the wind, the students
only make them rustle in the dust- Here, there and everywhere
is the influence of the Ajanta caves, with this difference, that the
Ajanta artists, in those caves, have seen a great light and capturech
it, while their modern disciples have only groped pitifully in the
darkness, and stumbled over a broken lamp.
I felt profoundly depressed, and as soon as possible I took leave
of the kindly old Curator, and refreshed my eyes with the sweet
and vivid colours of some early illuminated manuscripts of the
Persian School, thankful to step back into the living past, out of
the dead present.
In spite of all this, I still think that the works of Mr* Chugtai
are worthy of a more elevated site than that which has been
accorded to them, outside the door of the gentlemen's lavatory.
At least he knows what he wants to say and is technically capable
of saying it. The hosts of little Chugtais who follow in his footsteps
can claim no such merit*